Let’s Face It Folks: iOS is Not a Strategy

A recent blog post by PhobosLab posted to Hacker News titled “What the Fucking Fuck, Apple?” (before the posted link was renamed to a tamer ‘Apple ignores but report’) sparked yet another furious debate about Apple’s platform.

The discussion began quickly and all the standard players were out. First were the sympathizers. Many others have also submitted bugs ultimately closed as duplicates or outright ignored. Others have been burned by the platform, the app store, or the approval process in various ways.

Quick to the fight were the realists. “This is capitalism folks”, “work around it”, “nothing is perfect”, “try getting a bug fixed in free software” all showed up right on time. There is no denying any of these arguments.

Also in the fray were people calling foul and over-reaction on part of the author. Others were attempting to mitigate by offering great advice based from experience. There was your essential dash of snark, and filling the cracks were the pedantic ramblings, side conversations and tangents that inevitably follow popular flame wars.

Now, I have a lot of respect for PhobosLab. I played BioLab Disaster the first time I stumbled on it, probably at Hacker News. I love what they’ve done for gaming in open and standard technologies. Web gaming interests me enough that at one point I built an online gaming community with my own custom web games (using Java at the time). I have nothing but good things to say about what I see coming out of this space.

Placed into the conversation was my two cents, and it quickly floated to the top which surprised me a little:

You’re telling me Apple is unresponsive to support requests from their developer ecosystem? Really? Get out of town! I don’t believe it.

Despite all of the rightful moaning of iOS developers, for some reason they continue to flock to the Apple platform. Apple will continue to treat their developers like second class citizens until there is a financial incentive to do otherwise. Right now, when one pissed off developer leaves or goes bankrupt because their app was yanked from the store or wasn’t approved for some BS reason, 50 developers replace him.

This comment was less directed towards the author at PhobosLab and more of a textual embodiment of my almost physical exasperation for the iOS platform discussion altogether. It seems to be resonating across the community now as well.

The iOS platform posts on Hacker News are legion. Between fanboy fanfare, iOS update previews, app store algorithm updates, marketing and cross-promotion data analysis, price-point A/B testing, icon design, app store rejection stories, stolen content, manipulating app store reviews, Show HN posts, and your occasional success posts every aspect of this story has a horse and each one of those horses have been dead for a while. Shoot, even I had a story where I followed the gold rush without thinking clearly.

After all this coverage I’d think people would get tired and adjust their expectations. I’m baffled how these things continue to get to the front page. (Two f-bombs seem to help.) It’s been at least four years and the trend is pretty clear folks: iOS is not a strategy.

Making something completely clear, I don’t believe PhobosLab made this mistake. Quite the contrary. An HTML5 strategy is the clearest way to avoid getting dragged into iOS or Android development.

Frankly that is probably why the author had such vitriol to spew towards Apple in the first place. Here is a guy that has gone out of his way to get out of Apple’s way. Yet somehow he is still dealing with a bug that is preventing the player from running and jumping.

What PhobosLab and other strong web technology advocates understand is that if you control the delivery of your product, you are your own king and you answer to no one.

The strategic mistakes and resulting community confusion seemed to begin when iPhone hype mixed with the excitement of the first competent mobile platform. Always available, portable form factor, continuous connectivity, and impressive hardware. Sign me the fuck up, right?

The problem begins when developers attracted to the platform see it as a solution to their problems. Its like a moth to a zapper, an addict to his drugs. The stages are rather simple.

Emotional Dependence

This stage is when a developer is experimenting and reaches early success. They love the app store because of its ‘easy’ deployment. They don’t have to run a web-server. They don’t have to deal with charging credit cards. Product support is mostly optional. The app store is the largest portion of the marketing that matters, and there is always a steady inflow of captive eyeballs to turn into customers by luring them in with a professionally commissioned app icon. The app even turns some promising coin initially by being in the new section, getting featured by Apple, or reviewed on a popular blog.

Mental Dependence

With the wind under his/her wings, the now fully indoctrinated developer starts investing more resources. For larger operations, this usually means building a larger team, hiring designers and doing some true marketing, expanding to other platforms, and eventually broadening product strategy, mindshare, and brand.

For the rest, it means expending personal energy to extract as much value out of the platform as possible. Enter price experimentation, app-stamping™ (the practice of producing a large number of very similar apps to gain volume horizontally in a space while reducing development overhead on individual apps), cross-promotion techniques, time-consuming customer satisfaction quests and feature enhancements, etc. The activity doesn’t really matter as long as its contributing to becoming an iOS App Store Master.

Physical Dependence

Full investment wears thin. The high from the initial post-launch boost is long gone. Frustration replaces jubilance. Blog posts with shaky results, learned lessons, and a positive outlook for the future are replaced with furious rage, confusion, flying spittle, and a visit from the Android bandwagon to pick up any new passengers.

Like a gambler down on his luck the developer wraps up their memior with a retrospective and tries to learn something from it all. Well, that or they continue the delusion and starve. Continue and starve they do.

Back in 2008 my roommate was laid off from an iPhone game company when a couple of their projects were rejected from the app store and they couldn’t afford to continue paying all the developers. Instead of getting another job, he moved back in with his parents and proceeded to collect unemployment for the next 8 months whilst app-stamping until he finally gave up and got another full time position.

This may just be a cute analogy but the point still stands: it is very difficult to grow a business when you do not control your product. When you depend on another company to “get around” to reviewing your flagship product so you can get it in front of paying customers you are in deep doo-doo.

Does this mean “iOS is dead”? Am I teeing up for a controversial blanket statement to spark a karma-laden flame war? While I love a good nerd fight as much as the next guy, that’s not what I’m saying at all.

iOS is great for accessing a large population of the mobile market. However success means combining iOS presence with other products or services as a larger more hollistic strategy. An iOS app can even be the damn cereal, but its still “part of a complete breakfast.”

If you start on iOS, the story seems to be grow or die. AngryBirds became a cultural phenomenon, but only after leveraging initial iOS success into multiple platform ports, a cartoon show and merchandizing.

Now of course feeding yourself and your family from the app store is not impossible. If you don’t want to work for the ‘man’, good for you. At this point however the sob stories and sympathy should dry up because its clear what you’re buying when you get your $100 license, your 200 beta users, and 70% of your revenue.

iOS is not a strategy. Is a tool. A tactic. A way to access customers. PhobosLab knows this and side-stepped the subject entirely by striving to deliver the most native experience one can with open web technologies. Success in this arena is a death threat for any mobile platform and software provider.

Is there any wonder why no one at Apple is rushing to fix this?

Join the discussion on Hacker News.

A modern approach to the fully semantic free form client

This post is, simply put, about the next step in web design.

If you have been paying attention (you have been paying attention, right?), there have been countless opinions, views, pundits, open letters, pontifications, rebuttals, whining, coddling, and fear.

Now that we got all of that out of our system, what are we – as developers who do stuff daily- going to do about it?

Driving home from work yesterday, I started thinking about a new approach to web design. An approach that will allow free form web presentation, semantic HTML (read: bot crawl-able and indexable), and separation of concerns. None of this is revolutionary – but I have yet to see it spelled out this way anywhere else.

This Morning’s Broken Client Side Model

Below is a picture that describes the way it is today. This is the ‘before’ (Flash aside because its a “black box” in an HTML document, and since some argue its the most important and successful technology on the web lets table that for a moment).

The HTML DOM as it exists today is the view in the prototypical MVC pattern. HTML5 and CSSphiles will say that it should semantically describe the data. So really the document describes the model, and the view. Javascript is obviously the controller in this case – but almost invariably it also holds state. What we are left with is this Venn Diagram where the model-view-controller is bastardized. CSS helps separate out presentation, but lets face the fact that it doesn’t (why would tags have ‘hasLayout’ properties if it did?). Don’t let CSS distract you here, I’m simply pointing it out. Moving on.

Web Client MVC

Separating concerns allows technology to move

So what can we do differently today?

This Afternoon’s Client Side MVC Model

Since HTML describes the data, lets leave it as the model. Javascript/ECMAScript works well enough and browsers support it, so that’s still the controller.

Ah, the ever-so debatable SVG/Canvas technology. This is new stuff, we’ve all seen demos. We’ve all debated. Which one is better? It doesn’t matter. There are browser differences in javascript and DOM implementations, and yet there are many many many javascript libraries and frameworks to address that. So while IE will have SVG support, all the other browsers will support Canvas. We are a resourceful bunch – there will be a layer that takes care of that for us transparently (this is already happening with smaller libraries).

So with cross-browser free form taken care of, whats the approach? Make the HTML DOM invisible, use Javascript to $(‘lookup’) the data you need, and feed it to the free form technology to make it pretty like Flash.

The clincher here is since the DOM still exists (and crawlers don’t  care about javascript or CSS), it can still be semantically described and indexed. Documents can still be linked, data can still  be pulled out by external services, and “Flashies” still get their pretty free form design. CSS can work for small visual requirements where HTML for presentation makes some sense (controls/etc), but most of the work *could* be done free form.

Browsers obviously are a huge play here. People who say browsers aren’t innovating haven’t been paying attention. They will get faster, which is really the main issue here. Mike Erlanger suggests that HTML5 is really the turning point. This modern approach can be done today, but ultimately suggests that what is sent over the wire is data (existing as a DOM in today’s parlance), and the presentation will be done by the programmer, on the client (this is my thoughts on HN regarding this issue).

Full model-view-controller, free form web design, semantic web, can be done today (and be done better tomorrow). Is anyone already doing this?

Life is a series of curve balls.

One thing I’ve noticed recently – that I often take for granted – is that life is a series of curve balls.

The concept is so simple its sometimes overlooked. Hearing that phrase evokes a learned and canned response, “well duh, shit happens.” Cynicals would say you were preaching to the choir.

But in a cynical view, the prospector is much less likely to adapt. Every athlete knows that frustration and anger will prevent the mental state and concentration needed for the next action.

Any second can bring confrontation, reversing perspectives, emotional distress, or unplanned events.

What would *I* usually do? I would recognize and react to any situation with my first instinct. Due to my own emotional inexperience, I grasp onto that first strong visceral “gut” feeling and build my perspective off all the assumptions that follow. Its the equivalent of swinging blind. Even later when I would realize my initial assumption was wrong, my pride would prevent me from formally recognizing it and I wouldn’t fully adjust.

Lately I’ve been trying to let my initial and most visceral response pass (feeling the response without action), then analyze the situation with as much data as possible using the emotional response as a guide . Only after would I make any assumptions.

Unless I’m not learning anything new (and I hope I am), then I couldn’t possibly know what to do when the “curve ball” occurs. In fact, more times than not I won’t even recognize I’m in a new situation. My first guess is probably completely wrong. My next one – more than likely – isn’t much better. It won’t be until the third attempt that I gain any sense of awareness or a clear goal.

This could be with a skate trick, a programming or math problem, or even the best way to approach a person when responding.

Maybe there’s a good reason life throws us “curve balls.” In baseball, we get three chances then we are out. We are forced to adapt quickly or we lose. The biggest difference in life is “getting off the plate” is permanently our decision. (This is why most things are better than baseball).

Getting off the plate hides in snoozing the alarm, not remembering small but important tasks, or even worse making a handful of assumptions to “save time.”

We’ve all been guilty of these at some point. Hell, it would be impossible to never “give up” – we “give up” as it were for 8 hours a day (no, not at work – sleep!). The important thing, I believe, is always looking for ways to understand a situation or a person better.  Knowing this is understanding that life really is largely unplanned, things change, and some times your bracket gets screwed in the first round.

Accessing our strengths (loved ones, motivation, perspective, and rest) is really the only way to fight mental and emotional stress.

So when I’m confronted with an event out of my control, I let it go and think about my next swing. Life truly is a series of curve balls.

If you ever want to hit anything, you better pay attention.

What Draws Me to Web Development?

Note: This article is more technical than the rest of my posts so I’ve added addendum to kind-of explain some of the things I’m talking about. They will be paragraphs in italic like this.

So I’ve done all sorts of programming in all sorts of languages.  Ti-83, Visual Basic, C++, Java, straight C, php, python, LUA, ruby, javascript, etc etc. Command line tools, web serivices, high performance servers, low level libraries, games, web sites, web applications, mobile applications, calculator apps, the list goes on.

But I must say, I love web development. Why?

Because web development is a mix of all of these things. Each type of programming solves a different problem, is done in a different environment, has different rules, and requires its own mindset to decompose and solve the problem at hand.

Take a look at a typical Rails client/server stack (courtesy of joshcarter.com):

web_software_stack

Starting from the front of the client stack – you have web design. This includes graphics, layout, styling, and user interface design. I use Photoshop, hand coded HTML with a W3C validator, css, and javascript. Right there I need to have a discriminating visual eye, and competencies in fomatting, styles, and scripting. And that’s just to get something to show up in the browser. This doesn’t even include the idiosyncrasies between browsers, supported standards, typefacing, or compatibility (damn you Internet Explorer 6).

For the uninitiated, this means that I can write HTML that works perfectly in Firefox, a popular open source browser. However, if my friend uses IE (which comes with Windows), or Safari (which comes along with a Mac), you could potentially end up with a pages that look similar, but different enough to cause layout problems – I’m sure you’ve seen weird pages before. This is why you’re “geek” friends tell you to drop IE, because catering to the way IE displays its web pages is a difficult challenge.

How do you create that page? Well thats the stack on the left. Again, starting from the front – I’m probably are using a web application framework like Ruby on Rails, Django, CakePHP, etc. If you aren’t using a framework (or have written your own), theres a whole class of other issues right there. Web servers, CGI, request dispatching, MVC design, databases and SQL. In most cases (unless you are using Node.js) you’ll have to learn yet another language to use or create a web app framework.

Basically, you need a way to pull information from a database, get it in a form that is easy to work with, and then use it to *generate* the HTML for the web page. So not only does the resulting web page have to look right in all the different web browsers, but the developer has to write a *program* that creates this HTML – on the fly – correctly – every time. This requires another language on top of the visual element languages.

So the thats the front-end of the server (even though the database could be considered the back end). Then there is the ‘OS’ layer, which I would consider number crunching tasks. Web development and application providing increasingly requires heavy workloads, computation, or number crunching. In a lot of cases this can be done in the same server-side scripting language used in the framework, but not always. Ruby and python make it easy to create and bind to C for the heavy lifting. This brings in more low level programming languages, environments, and *gasp* – memory management.

The languages used to generate the HTML are usually slow because that too has to be converted into a language that the computer understands, *while* it is running. Meaning the “code” is just text in a file, and a computer reads it and does the corresponding “ones and zeros.” This conversion process takes time and the languages are usually limited. To do number-heavy or data intensive stuff, one must use *yet another language* (usually simpler in form but more low level and sophisticated) that is “ones and zeros” from the get-go. There is less and less of this but most large web applications require it.

On top of all this you are worrying about response time, ease of use, ability to service and maintain the application, CPU loads, search engine optimization,  and having fun somewhere along the way.

Does the web site load slower than Myspace? Where the hell is the delete button? This error has been happening for months! Why can’t I find the site anymore on Google? This website sucks.

Now don’t get me wrong – I love all programming. Low level performance code, games, animation and graphics, command line and server tools. Web development brings in all of this. The skills required to develop for the web – by yourself – literally encompasses a lifetime of learning.

The web moves faster than any other technology out there – and it requires the widest range of skills. If you are a developer and value learning as a life long endeavor, then web development is a challenge awaiting.

One (more) Thing I’ve Learned About Relationships (So Far)

For some reason, I remember a very specific exchange with my mother when I was 11. I had just begun middle school, and having my own locker, a binder, and text books made me feel like a grown up. I had seen how the older 8th graders had boyfriends and girlfriends, holding hands, kissing goodbye in the hallway, etc.

Like any youthful sprite, I wanted to grow up too quickly. The previously aforementioned exchange with my mother ended with “why can’t I have a girlfriend? Its not fair!” Her response?

“Because.”

Not the best answer for an 11 year old. But what I didn’t know at the time (amongst many, many other things) was…

Interpersonal relationships are equally rewarding as they are challenging.

But please, do not misunderstand this statement (not that I automatically assume you have). I don’t mean to say that love is amazing but at the same time difficult, although this is true. I have realized, through my own experiences, that the amazing part comes from the challenge.

The converse of this being that relationships that are not challenging can only be temporarily rewarding.

Here is a well known prototype for relationships:

“We met, and everything was wonderful. I felt like I was on cloud nine with him/her. I couldn’t possibly be away from them for more than a day. Yet somewhere along the line, the spark was gone and what was left in its place was everything that had grown to annoy me. So I dumped ‘em.”

Why does this happen? The initial excitement of having a new person in your life wears off within a couple of weeks. Sometime after, you seem to get bored and your eye wanders while simultaneously picking on the negative things about your partner.

I would suffice to say at this point there is no challenge in the relationship. What creates challenge? Well, its no longer in getting another date. It may not be making them laugh, feel comfortable, or having them spend the night anymore. Humans are inherently goal seekers. So whats left?

Respect, trust, and emotional and mental intimacy.

Now thats a loaded list. There are plenty of books written about this stuff. Many counselors make a living on it. One blog post couldn’t possibly cover it all. I’m not going to attempt to, not just because it takes a while but also because I don’t know everything. (Anything?)

What I do know, however, is that figuring yourself out, figuring your partner out, and helping each other grow as people (and as a pair) is challenging as hell and probably takes a lifetime. So if you’re bored with a relationship you’re probably not doing these things.

Helping each other with life’s challenges (as well as each other’s) is huge. If you and your partner can not work as one coordinated unit you’ll probably end up leading two uncoordinated lives. Just in the same house. Sure, you have your time together, and you talk about your days at work, but thats not synergy.

I have a dorky metaphor for coordinated efforts. My girlfriend Rebecca and I have recently started playing Rock Band. Now, we are seemingly a good band because we do well on all the songs. But she plays the drums and I play the guitar. We are really doing our own thing.

But what if one song was really really hard on drums?  Rebecca keeps failing at one particular spot in the song (for the uninitiated, this happens when you miss enough notes over a period of time). If I wasn’t paying attention to her needs, I could have used my star power to rack up more points (seemingly good for both of us) earlier. In Rock Band, I could use this star power to save Rebecca from her terrible drum playing, bringing her back on stage and preventing us both from failing. But I was too busy doing my own thing, so when she failed I couldn’t bring her back and we lose. Recognizing this weakness after failing a couple of times would tell me to save that star power in the case that she fails, so I can bring her back.

Now thats team work!

But thats not really that challenging, not after the first 2 times failing. It takes minimal change on my part. I could figure it out pretty quickly and move onto the next song.

Now lets say the next song is even harder on drums – the bass pedal is so difficult that she misses more than half, and she fails quickly (OK I fail too, alot. I’m not perfect). I’ve learned from our last endeavor that I need to save up star power – and so I do.

Except in Rock Band, you can only save your band member twice. So if they fail three times before the song is done, you can’t bring them back and the entire band will eventually fail the song.

What do we do?

Well we could reduce the difficulty, but in life you can’t change the circumstances like that so for this metaphor we’ll ignore that one. We can switch, but we aren’t as proficient with the other instruments as we are our own. We are stuck.

Wait a second, what if I play the bass drum?

I know I play guitar but I can hit a bass drum on beat for a while, allowing Rebecca to concentrate on the other notes. Sure, I’ll probably miss more of my own notes because I can’t “rub my belly and pat my head,” but it may prevent her from failing out.

So we try it – and this time I get close to failing. But we both make it through alive, and we finally complete the song after failing so many times before! We’ve worked in a coordinated way whose sum was greater then our individual abilities.

How does challenging each other come into play here?

Well, what if I when I suggested that I play the bass drum Rebecca got defensive of her abilities? What if she snapped at me in her own frustration?

“Fine, you come over here and play the drums then. Lets see how far you get!”

I could then get upset with her, starting a fight of our own when we were originally working together on a common goal.

But she didn’t. Here is a challenge of ego. She trusts that I respect her ability to play the game, but realize that I may need to help her out to get through the song. She’s challenging herself by admitting her limitations. I’m also challenging myself because I’m now playing one and a half instruments. Which is not easy might I add.

But guess what happened afterwards? We talked about how crazy that song was, and walked away from the fake stage setup feeling awesome that we could accomplish it in such a way. The game became more fun. The challenge has brought the reward. We have gone back to play many times after that – together.

So while Rock Band isn’t necessarily a serious example of the true hardships encountered in serious relationships, I like the analogy. I could have finished that song the first time through if I was playing by myself. But I wouldn’t have learned anything.

When my mom told me I couldn’t have a girlfriend when I was 11 and answered my prototypical “why?” with the parental staple “because,” she was telling me that if I didn’t understand the non-answer, I couldn’t understand the real one. The typical “you don’t know why because you don’t know why.”

Very wise, those parents. Now theres a concept.

Post Collegiate Mentalities and Happy New Years

If there is anything I can state as a fact about my post-graduate life, it is that more has changed in the last year and a half (I graduated in 2008) then the 21 years before it, which includes graduating high school, going to an out of state college, and learning to appreciate a good beer.

In 2009 alone, I started my first business (and second), lost my best friend, had back surgery, lived in my first apartment by myself, and eventually moved in “full time” will my girlfriend. I got off Windows and pretty much only own Apple hardware, I’ve switched completely to non-fiction reading, and I don’t have $80 weekend bar tabs (anymore).

Today is New Years Eve. We are on the brink of something new. For some reason this year feels like it will be even bigger than the last, even though I’m not entirely sure how I could accomplish that.

Small changes are hard to make. Because it is so close to what was before the change, it is easy to slide back into the previous groove, habit, schedule, or mind-set. People pick New Years to make big changes. Drop the new year resolutions, I say. I’m setting goals for my life. I’m completely changing my mentality.

What mentality we choose to live by is so important because it is literally the framework in which we perceive our reality – the mental objects and abstractions we use to idenitify our surroundings. It prioritizes our goals (do we want to slam beer and ride motorcycles or do we like chess and a glass of wine?), dictates who our friends are by reflecting our commonalities, and within its cracks defines our values.

I love my life. But I want more from it. I’ve learned that if you’re locked up and your “mouse cursor” isn’t moving, the easiest thing to do is reboot and start over.

Happy New Years everyone, see you in 2010.

iStoleYourStartup: A story of an iPhone Company Con Man

Disclaimer: This is a personal account of a series of events I was directly involved in. This is merely my perspective. Any third party accounts that would like to argue otherwise are free to say whatever they want and I won’t argue with them because I simply don’t care. This is not an attempt at Internet libel as I am merely relating my own experience as I remember it. I’ve changed most of the relevant names to protect myself from litigation but would really like to expose this guy and his wife for what they really are.

Introduction

A very personal story of mine has been brewing in my head for a long time. I have written, deleted, rewritten, and re-deleted it many times trying to find the best way to piece it together in my mind, and on paper. I have fought for closure and peace of mind for over 7 months. I finally decided just to lay it out there whether or not it makes sense.

I started an iPhone app company with my friend and room mate; and it was manipulated, stolen, and destroyed by one of the best con men I have ever met.

My room mate, Ryan (who worked as an iPhone game developer at the time), had a great idea to make OpenGLES based yoga/fitness applications. Because yoga is something we practiced, it seemed only natural to couple this with our love for animation, graphics, and programming. He put together a working prototype and we went out and got the license and development tools necessary to begin production.

Ryan had been going to a Mind-Body fitness class for a couple of months that was run by a knowledgeable, charismatic guy who had been purportedly practicing meditation, qigong, and martial arts for his entire life. This dude even got his black belt from a man trained by Chuck Norris (I can’t prove this). Ryan pointed out that using his name/reputation in the field as well as his guidance for a cut of the revenue could really help boost sales and increase our legitimacy.

Enter “Tanner” and the Zen Club

Ryan brought me to Tanner’s (his operating alias was “Sensei”) Dojo, a small gym tucked away in the wealthy suburbs of Austin, Texas. It was a rented office of about 600-700 square feet with weights, bands, punching bags, mats, mirrors, etc. As I entered I could tell it was a martial arts school, with shoes all sprawled out by the door and a sign that said “Leave your shoes, and your ego, at the door.” I tried to be on my least-arrogant behavior knowing the environment that I just walked in to.

Then I saw him. Tanner. I could tell it was him because he walked up to the front desk like he owned the place. He had a perfectly shaven flavor savor and well modeled, bowl cut with West Hollywood frosted tips. My immediate visceral reaction was “what a douche.” But remembering the sign at the door, and that we were soon going to be working with him, I set my natural conceptions aside.

After his class ended, Ryan, Tanner and I went into the adjacent office that was not leased at the moment. I later learned that Tanner had talked the property owner into letting him “squat” there (his words, not mine) so he could have privacy while classes were going on next door.

And let me tell you, this guy blew me away. He was 20 years older than both me and Ryan, but I felt like he was right there. There was no distance, no generation gap. He said all the right things. He was a mentor, friend, and brother all at the same time. I had simply never met anyone like him.

I felt like we were the luckiest guys in the world.

As we talked we discussed what type of applications we wanted to make. We showed him our portfolios, told him about our  backgrounds, what we were capable of, and what we wanted from him. He was all for it. He even wanted to be a partner in our company to help us grow and watch us succeed.

One of the things Tanner stressed the most at the beginning (and this is important), was that our applications should be designed to help people first and foremost. If we made some quick cash in the process, more the better, but it was not our primary motive. (This was also during the time iFart’s success was sprayed all over the headlines of every tech outlet on the Internet, January 2009).

He related a story to us about an old mentor of his that wasn’t practicing what he preached, and it really disappointed him. He finally had to confront his mentor and ended up leaving the school. Since then, Tanner said he has been practicing contributing to society for the good of all those involved. This was right around the time the scope of the credit default swap scandal and bailouts were in full swing, so to meet someone so genuinely good was both surprising and refreshing.

Hook set, the Rabbit hole begins

Ryan and I were actively developing our Satori Yoga application. Tanner had pulled a favor from one of his students who was a professional photographer to get Tanner’s wife, Samantha, in the yoga poses we needed using a high quality CLR camera. He was doing a photo shoot for his Zen Club clothing line, and brought us in after to do our iPhone shoot. He was pulling out all the stops. He let us use his hot tub, invited us to fancy dions” -  truly involving us in his world,  treating us like equals, and had even called Ryan and I geniuses to the lady at the DBA office when we were reserving our business name.

The three of us would go disc golfing, drink beers together, and go to the driving range. We were like three peas in a pod. It felt so strange, yet so right that we could relate to someone significantly older than us. It must be the spirituality, the meditation, the mindset – I thought to myself. I realized that I wanted to be just as tuned in as he was. Just as good. Just as spiritual. Good things would come my way.

Sometime during this period, I joined Zen Club. It was the mind-body fitness class Ryan had met Tanner through. Its a mix of meditation, interval training, weight training, and stretching. (In hindsight, I believe it to be no more than an overpriced ($150 a month) repetitive work out with trite spiritual messages designed to make you feel good about yourself.) You read that right, we were bringing a revenue opportunity to our business partner, and paying him $150 a month for a guided gym membership (and Ryan even ended up paying Tanner a full $40 for his meditation DVD series). But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The First Sign of Trouble, and the Smooth Talking Begins

We would constantly have meetings with Tanner. He would call them probably 2 or 3 times a week. Despite the fact it was originally Ryan’s idea, and the two of us were doing most of the work, it seemed as though Tanner was running the show somehow. Ryan and I were working as hard as we could to get all of the graphics and bootstrapping done so we could really hit the ground running. Within 3 weeks, we had created an entire OpenGL framework that would really allow us to harness the power of the iPhone in a way that most non-game application developers didn’t bother with. Tanner’s third, non-developer eye helped us create something a little more polished as he wasn’t married to the code and graphics like Ryan and I were.

During one of the many meetings the three of us had, Tanner began talking about revenue splits (way before we even finished the Yoga application). Because the IP “technically” belonged to Zen Club, the company would get its own share.

Wait. Wasn’t he already getting a cut because he was a partner? Wouldn’t giving Zen Club a cut be effectively paying him twice, despite the fact he doesn’t even know how to write code? Did he think I was stupid? This began to worry me, especially since we didn’t even have a contract in place. I knew this was an amateur mistake (even at the time), but because I felt like I could trust him completely, I thought I was just being paranoid. The entire business was supposed to be a “spiritual revolution of goodness in the world”, why would he screw me over?

I came to him open and honest with my concerns in an important meeting late one night at my and Ryan’s house. If we were going into business together we needed all emotions out on the table. I told Tanner I didn’t think he was really pulling for this company. I told him I felt like he wanted to maximize his profits by taking a partnership cut, and paying out to Zen Club, and that once revenue dried up and the iPhone App boom was over, the company would dissolve and he would take his profits and continue with his seemingly successful gym business.

He told me of course he was pulling for it, he was a partner and had already invested so much time and energy into it (and even some money – he paid $300 for a manual on how to make money on Twitter and gave it to me). He told me I was living in fear, I didn’t know how to recognize success. That I could trust him. Ryan wasn’t much help – he had known Tanner for 4 or so months before I ever met him and was already completely convinced by his charisma. This left it 2 against 1. Because I hadn’t invested any money into it beyond my iMac for development (which was mine), and programming was something I loved – I continued, worries quelled.

The Secret, The Master Teacher, And the iZenStudent Daily Meditations

For the uninitiated, there was a cult classic hit movie The Secret,” that came out not to long ago. It was a self-help phenomenon. The basic tenet was that you attract everything that happens into your life, be it positive or negative, by your thoughts. The first time I watched the movie, my naive jaw hit the floor – “it was just so true” I convinced myself.

I could instantly recall where negative thought patterns manifested exactly what I was trying to avoid, and that positive visualization had brought me everything that was right in my life to fruition. It was the basis of all of the spiritual teachings I had been learning during my time at Tanner’s Zen Club. I truly was a spiritual maverick ready to make a difference in the world. I started positive visualization, created a vision board – nothing could freaking stop me from success as long as I was focused.

I was having severe back problems during this time, and because Tanner supposedly had a back injury he had healed with meditation and qi gong, he found this as a perfect opportunity to regain my trust after my previous skepticism about his intentions. Helping me with breathing, visualization, and actually even a little Active Resistance Training and massage (no, really) I felt just as close to him as I did before he tried siphoning money through our application revenue back into Zen Club. (In the end none of this helped and I ended up in back surgery, but that is a different story for a different day).

And then it happened. The law of attraction “worked”.

Through some business connections I am to this day not really clear on, we landed a phone call with Joe Ansaldi - master teacher from The Secret, proven business guru and multi-millionaire. And he was interested in working with us on our iPhone Applications. To cut a long process, long coding nights, long pitch planning sessions, web site creation, and meditation short – he was instantly interested and we were now using his endorsements and ideas to sell our iPhone Apps.

Joe. Freaking. Ansaldi.

Needless to say – we listened to Joe. The days of the Satori Yoga application were long gone. We were now working on a series of iPhone applications based on Joe Ansaldi’s Daily Meditations. We coined our name, iZenStudent, and were “on our way to making millions”.

Yet somewhere along the way, and I can’t exactly discern when, the dynamics of our triad partnership had changed. We started reporting to Tanner like he was a boss, not a guide. Ryan had been completely indoctrinated into Tanner’s world view and became an echo of his ideas and mantras. The Secret’s doctrine had the propensity to blame the victim. Ryan even tried to convince me that my herniated disc pain was actually in my head. This mentality made negotiating and brainstorming an absolute nightmare.

Meetings and business decisions were completely useless. Prudent business outlooks I offered along with the positive vibes of our “synergistic” style were ignored by both Tanner and Ryan as negative vibrations.  In the end it always came down to Tanner’s ideas, parroted by Ryan, in direct opposition to me (even if my suggestions benefitted us as a whole). I had always been the voice of prudence during the operation – the least “spiritual” of the three (or at least that’s how I had been cornered to feel), some negative naysayer.

Knowing there was about to be the potential for some serious cash on the table, coupled with the working vote-count monopoly Tanner had acquired, I demanded that we get a contract set up, get some lawyers in on the deal, and get legit.

I also suggested that we get a helping hand from my girlfriend who had done business taxes and books before so we can keep everything straight. I wanted to start keeping track of expenses and logging hours. Tanner immediately shot that down saying “getting loved ones involved in business always ends up messy” (this becomes important later).

The Invisible Lawyer and the Boilerplate Contract

Upon demanding a contract, Tanner instantly offered a lawyer who owed him a favor in return for free classes, who was “the best partnership lawyer in Austin,” who could draw us up a contract at no cost. “Sweet!” I thought, considering I didn’t have the money for the consulting or the fees involved in drawing it all out.

I never saw the guy. Not even once. I couldn’t even find the “best partnership lawyer in Austin” on Google.

Weeks later, after endless questions and arguments about the stalling (all while Ryan and I spent late nights coding, neglecting life duties like cleaning the house, doing the dishes, and paying attention to my girlfriend), Tanner finally delivered a “contract” for us to sign.

Luckily for me, my girlfriend is a very intelligent tax consultant/accountant, with one of the best intellectual property expert witnesses in the country as a father. Needless to say, I had someone with my best interest in mind who could read legalese.

It was a completely boilerplate contract that anyone with access to the internet could have either downloaded or created using a service like LegalZoom. I sent the changes that were suggested by my girlfriend, who I trusted more than anyone else at this point, to Tanner for review. That was the last I heard of it.

By this point, my skepticism was mounting, but Tanner tried one more maneuver to get me sold. He informed Ryan and I that he was talking with Joe Ansaldi (which he had started doing more often without us) and he could possibly be interested in seed funding us – get us out of our day jobs to develop full time. We discussed it late one night in the abandoned office he was still squatting in, and we came up with a number. $250,000.

I went back to my girlfriends place the next night and did some numbers, comparing it to our current salaries, splitting it up three ways, taking away tax and operating costs, etc. I realized that walking away from my comfortable and rewarding corporate job on nothing less than a complete gamble was a waste of time. And financially dangerous.

Tanner tried to convince me I was living in fear. That I was not taking necessary risks for greatness.

What he failed to realize was that I knew if the runway ran out, I’d be left with no income and no job in a down market. He, on the other hand, would still have his Zen Club and an army of participants willing to pay $150 a month. The spiritual renegade was over – this was certainly not for the good of all those involved, as Tanner had preached and “practiced” every day of his life. He was trying to walk me off a cliff on a gamble that would screw me and Ryan if we failed, while leaving him down only a couple hundred bucks. “Oh well, thats business.”

It had become obvious to me that this was a low-overhead operation and if Tanner could get us to quit our jobs, our best bet would be to work as hard as we can on iZenStudent to make it successful. The iPhone millionaires kept showing up in the headlines, a lage incentive for Tanner to drive us – and really the only thing keeping us motivated despite the fact it had been 4 months and we weren’t any closer to a contract or a product.

This wasn’t even taking into account the countless articles of App Store submission nightmares and developers going unpaid for sold applications.

I Quit! And That’s When the Fun Begins

Tanner had kept me running for the carrot on the string long enough. We had a meeting a couple days later where I told Ryan and Tanner I was no longer interested in working on iZenStudent. Tanner was obviously working us like dogs, for free, at the expense of our own life balance, for his direct benefit. He didn’t seem upset. Rather, he was probably elated considering I was a complete thorn in his side ever since I became wise to him, despite the fact that Ryan was still working enthusiastically as if the cash had already arrived (which is what Tanner tried to teach us both to become successful – Step 2 of the  law of attraction is to feel as though what you wish for has already arrived).

Within 2 weeks of quitting,  the website I built from the ground up on the domain that Ryan purchased was moved to a similar (however less intuitive) domain that was under Tanner’s control. My iZenStudent e-mail and ftp accounts were deleted (along with all of the records within). Tanner named himself CEO of iZenStudent on the website without discussing it with Ryan at all, and got his wife, Samantha (remember her?), in as COO and creative director (whatever happened to leaving loved ones out of business?)

Ryan was one of my closest friends for 2 years, I felt as though I needed to warn him. Tanner always had a way with spinning his words, and Ryan was really good at believing him. I wrote Ryan a long, descriptive e-mail trying to outline everything Tanner had done up to this point – including, but not limited to, trying to double pay himself through Zen Club, going from a partner interested in helping people first and foremost to convincing us we were just steps away from millions of dollars, moving the website off a domain Ryan controlled, and naming himself CEO of the operation. His response was little more than a proverbial middle finger to our relationship. He trusted Tanner and his ability to lead “iZenStudent to the App Store stratosphere” over his best friend.

Defeated on that front, I wrote another long, descriptive e-mail to Tanner, telling him I was aware of everything he was doing. I told him I thought he was not practicing any of the spiritual tenets he preached, and was – very simply – a manipulative con man. What happened next?

First, I was banned from his online Zen Club community (I’ll let you speculate why).

After calling Tanner out for what he did, I was block from communicating with those that thought he was something he clearly wasn't.

After calling Tanner out for what he did, I was blocked from communicating with those that thought he was something he clearly wasn't.

Tanner then e-mailed Ryan, saying, that due to my behavior and “drama,” that iZenStudent was done. It was over. No more. He was just going to end the “millions of dollars everyone was going to make” because my e-mail hurt his feelings.

A day later Tanner contacted Ryan again – saying he would give Ryan one more chance at iZenStudent, if Ryan promised that I would no longer be a problem.

Here, Tanner created a lose-lose-win situation. First, it almost immediately destroyed any remants of the relationship I had with Ryan because Tanner painted a picture that I was the cause of iZenStudent’s near death experience. Two, it made Ryan’s compliance as a sign of complete loss of control of the company he originally founded. To add a cherry on top, it got me completely out of the way so he could continue to manipulate the situation without further interference.

Ryan could no longer afford to pay rent (due to the layoff) and had to move back in with his parents. I moved out and got my own apartment. The iZenStudent website that I created slowly morphed into a tacky quick-fix-for-all-your-problems  promotional page, and I can only now vaguely recognize the products we were producing (minus some of my code and original artwork which is obviously there either pixel for pixel or in direct spirit thereof).

In The End

I recently met up with Ryan (now 6-7 months after that last altercation) to catch up now that the steam had settled. He related to me that the eventual contract that did end up getting inked gave Ryan a whopping 5% of the company for the 11 applications he made after I had left.  Apparently, Joe Ansaldi said Ryan should be lucky to get even that (I believe this was probably due to how Tanner framed Ryan’s involvement – as just a developer). Tanner and Samantha cited  in the contract over 10 thousand dollars of business expenses to fly to the west coast to meet with Joe Ansaldi, all the while staying at 5 star hotels and renting BMWs.

If Ryan really wanted to, he could take them to court over it. Hell. If I wanted to, I could take them all to court for my back wages. I have all of the digital proof sitting on this very laptop. In the end its not worth the effort and it would be too soon if I ever saw Tanner or his wife again.

To this day I simply can’t believe that someone out there exists who would con and manipulate people like this. I’ve definitely lost my innocence during the process. “Shit like this only happens in Hollywood”. Oh wait, that’s where Tanner is from.

Heres a small bulleted list of some of the things that happened throughout the 5 months I was working with Tanner and involved in the Zen Club that rubbed me the wrong way:

  • Tanner started a Sunday Meditation class, where you could sit on pillows and discuss meditation and go through guided lessons. The next week – you couldn’t use the pillows unless you bought them for $30.
  • He created a series of seminars – from foam rollers, to qi gong, martial arts, etc. that cost $40 to attend. These were things that were supposed to be offered as part of the overpriced Zen Club bootcamp ($150 a month). He heavily recruited Zen Club members during lessons and made me feel uncomfortable a number of times when I declined.
  • In fact – the entire Zen Club is kind of run like a cult. There is a definite in-out club mentality and if you were negative or somehow challenged Tanner’s lessons or views it would piss him off. Everyone wears the same black workout clothes, and while not required, I was questioned numerous times from his assistant as to where my black Zen Club shirt had gone when I failed to wear it.
  • For a guy who approaches life with a “contemporary zen” view, he and his wife drove a BMW 5 series and a Mercedes Benz. Samantha once related to me that she spent over $900 in a weekend putting potted plants in their back yard. The inside of their house looks like a Orienental Decor catalogue – pulling out all stops with large decorative pieces with absolutely no function.
  • I have witnessed, with full admittance by Samatha, that she was driving with a glass of wine. When Tanner showed up at a FedEx where we were meeting to terminate our DBA (after I quit), he got out of his car at 5pm in the middle of the week, and killed the end of his Corona Light.
  • Checking the property tax records reveals that Samantha (although an alias for the purpose of this article) isn’t even her real name. Tanner (also an alias for this article), isn’t his real legal name either.
  • Any internet search on either of the two will not turn up anything between 1994 to 2007. Using Samatha’s real name reveals her previous acting career (despite claiming being in a zen-like meditation community for 17 years -making it 1992-, where they gave up all possessions and were training not even to enjoy their food. That said, she did tell everyone she used to act but found it weird how I could never find any information about it).

Typing all of that stuff out, I feel almost stupid that I trusted this guy with my business for as long as I did. In reality, none of these little things clicked, none of the dots were connected until months later and only after I regained some emotional clarity on the subject.

Are they a con couple? I can’t really tell. Maybe they just got greedy amist the iPhone gold rush after they realized they had two talented developers under their control who were already working for free and without a contract. I could speculate for months (and I have).

I’m ready to put this thing to rest. Typing this out and organizing my thoughts has been largely theraputic for me. I hope it serves as a warning to anyone who is going into a business partnership to remember what they say is true – its worse than marriage. Hell, its like all of the work with none of the sex. And if you meet a complete stranger who is more than willing to help you make a bunch of money – they are probably trying to screw you. I guess even the “good” people in this world can turn out to be bold face liars.

Now there’s a concept.

Keep your businesses real, and stay safe.

Epilogue

There has been quite and interet response to this article so I’m going to clarify a couple of things, as well as draw up some clearer conclusions and lessons learned.

1. I never really thought that what we were doing was revolutionary. We were creating cool looking applications on a new device and that excited me. Once we had a reputable name that had the marketing acumen, I thought that we could push a lot of $0.99 units.

2. I continued on despite what looked like a bad deal out of loyalty to my friend. His arrogance wasn’t helping, I probably stayed too long, and in the future I will definitely pick my friends a little more carefully.

3. My fascination with “The Secret” was true and simple naivety. Had I had walked around the block a couple more times I would have realized that this was complete snake oil wrapped in a snappy, marketable message.

4. “Tanner’s” relationship with Ryan rotted after the poor handling of their eventual contract and his Dojo’s attendance has been suffering as it has apparently clearly affected his charismatic performance. I’ve been told he is in a mountain of personal and business debt. This is merely what I was told by a source I trust but take from it what you will.

5. I made a lot of dumb mistakes and wanted to “play business” like it was some game and that if I sat in my room and wrote code all day the mail man would deliver a pile of money to my doorstep. I was an ass hat and I’ve learned a great deal of humility since then.

6. It was emotional, and maybe I played that up a bit here. Its a personal story and its taken a long time to get over it. Simply knowing I’ve had people read my story is enough. It was my first true business endeavor outside the safety of a large corporate structure and I got burned.

7. The company is still operating, but still haven’t managed to get even one of their 12 applications onto the app store. They have since produced zero revenue, the seed money was probably a lie from Tanner, and there’s so many cuts in the pie these days that I’d be surprised if anyone made their investment back. (As of November 9, 2009).

8. A lot of people speculate that “con man” is probably inaccurate. And after reading a lot of perspectives via personal e-mail and comments on Hacker News. I’d say that’s a fair assessment. I didn’t protect myself and Ryan and I were simply taken advantage of. The story conveys my emotions about the issue, and how terrible it made me feel.

Half of me had wished I had posted for advice earlier on (I did eventually get the advice I needed from my girlfriends Dad), I get the feeling I would have been served up a large slice of reality pie. I’m doing my best not to walk around with my head so far up my own ass this time around, seeking professional advice where needed.

Thanks for taking the interest and time to read and respond to my story. Hopefully someone avoids making the same mistakes I did.

I Love Social Web Media Marketing Innovators

Hey guys!

You should totally check out my Twitter page. I’ve posted some awesome TinyURL links to sweet blog posts on Techcrunch! What?! You don’t know what Techcrunch is? Geez… you probably still go to Digg.

I’ve been lead generating awesome Tweet blasts from my latest iPhone App. Once I was done collaborating with my cloud team on Google Wave, I read up on the latest web PR news and created a viral loop using my social bookmarking karma as a network base.

I’ve finished researching the cutting edge technology created by chicken-egg social web app morons and I’m ready to push the envelope with some round A seed venture capital. This is going to work because I know the difference between posting a link on my WordPress blog that says “My Twitter Page” and “You should follow me on Twitter.” You should follow me off a cliff too, because I’ll give you 10 good reasons to use your RSS feed to not pay attention to where you’re walking.

Once I’m done tweeting my inside jokes to @friendyouneverheardof, and wrapping up my awesome burrito review in 140  characters or less, I’m going to create a web page and call it a start up. Sure, its only in beta now, but once I reach critical mass the blogosphere is going to be like REDDIT WHO?!

Being hot on technology trends isn’t like following fashion fads, because fashion fads sell tangible products and create real money. Vaporware, buzz words, and hype is what gets you attention, not an argyle scarf.

If you aren’t agile already, then you’re already 3 Tweets behind whats going to replace it in 4 months. Waterfall is so Microsoft, planning is stupid. Shoot, I’ll be bold enough to say thinking is stupid. The more you e-mail spray your web-wisdom, the more leads you create to spam filter your Tumblr links!

Its all about streams, trackbacks, pingbacks, affiliate programs, link farms, Black Hat SEO, Ruby on Rails and only Ruby on Rails, successful start ups with no clear path to revenue… or profit. WAKE UP PEOPLE! I’m on top of my shit because I have a business degree/logged into a webinar last month. It cost $100 so you know I got something useful out of it.

Whoops, looks like my new iPhone3GS is blowin’ up text style. I have to go collaborate on the cutting edge of innovation for a while. If I’m not already distracted by my millions of dollars I’ll call you and pretend I give a shit about what you say. See you on the money side!

Changes, and the Fear/Danger Quadrant

Its been almost a year and a half since I’ve left undergrad, and I’m truly starting to conceptualize what it means to commit yourself to learning as a lifelong endeavour. Learning allows me to operate on new information – and either do things differently, or do different things.

This means change. And a lot of it.

I would naturally resist change because I don’t know whats on the other side. And while my current situation may not be optimal, its certainly better than the unknown. I’ve recently changed this assumption.

I’ve made some pretty big steps recently, from moving in with my girlfriend Rebecca whom I love dearly, to expanding my side business into a realm of “Well I certainly can’t just stop now.” Others with more life experience and a broader perspective have given me great insight on big decisions like these – but I simply didn’t have the internal reference points to emotionally understand that you will never truly be ready.

This got me thinking – how do we discern what decisions to make and which ones not to make? Being the software guy that I am, I’ve attempted to make a mental model to help separate good decisions from the bad. But more importantly, good reasons from the bad.

Getting to the point: what stops us from making good decisions are negative outcomes (or the expectation thereof), and what helps us make bad decisions is the lack of those expectations. Mainly, what is the difference between fear and danger?

Fear to me, is someting we’ve created or projected in our minds. Fear of spiders, fear of dying. These things aren’t necessarily right in front of us (although one day they could be). Danger, on the other hand, is something that is imminent, probable, or likely. Distinguishing, or properly identifying which is which, leads to faster learning and better decision making.

I like pictures. So heres a little table of what I’ve come up with. On the Y axis is what you’ve interpreted the situation as (fear, danger). On the X axis, is what the situation is in reality. The contents of the cell, is what the likely outcome is.

its actually Fear its actually Danger
you think its Fear Imaginary risk identified, Growth opportunity Headstrong act / uninformed decision, bad decision with negative outcome (lesson learned?)
you think its Danger Failure to act, missed opportunity (lesson learned?)
Dangerous situation avoided, following intuition, active defense.

Identifying Fear as Fear: When I moved to Austin from DC, it was a new place. I had a smaller social network and shit was scary. I went from the comfortable situation I created after 4 years of school and put myself in a new situation. It was scary, but correctly identified as fear allowed me to grow. These are the type of opportunities that make life so sweet.

Misinterpreting Danger as Fear: After my skating accident in Janurary 2009, I was afraid I had a serious back condition. I was afraid that I might need surgery. What did I do? I avoided the truth – it took me 6 months of debilitating back pain before I went and got my MRI. I tried numerous natural healing methods, chiropractors, meditation, you-freaking-name-it. What I thought was fear was actually danger. My spinal canal was 80% pinched due to a L4/L5 herniation. My spinal surgeon said that even one more slight bump or shift could have left me paralyzed. While I learned my lesson, this could have easily turned out better had I correctly identified the issue at hand.

Misinterpreting Fear as Danger: While not the more dangerous of misinterpretations, I recognize these when I want to kick myself for missing an opportunity (regret). These happen all the time, but I try to use that data (how it felt) to help me refine my litmus test to teach me when to jump.

Identifying Danger as Danger: In a previous business, a partner with nothing on the line wanted me and my third partner to quit our day jobs to develop iPhone applications full time. We had the possiblity of getting a little seed money to feed us during first-round development. I knew if it didn’t take off, I would have walked away from my stable, healthy job for nothing and I would have been out in the cold during uncertain times. He tried to tell me I was holding myself back by living in fear (misinterpreting fear as danger – a missed opportunity). What did I do? I quit — the start up. I still work at my full time job (along with another growing side business) and as of this writing that iPhone company has made zero dollars.

What’s interesting is in each scenario, there are hidden opportunities. Be them concrete and real, a lesson learned, or a defensive move that keeps your butt out of the fire.

Fine tuning my senses to correctly identify these 100% of the time is an exercise in futility, but I’ve made a lifelong commitment to do my best to figure it out.

Selecting My Inner Cabinet

Picture courtesy of vandyright.com

Picture courtesy of vandyright.com

Good morning and welcome. We are here today because some things are going to change. You (my Cabinet) are my confidants, my go-to guys. I go to you for everything, lean on you for knowledge and advice, and most importantly trust your ability to help lead us to victory, whatever that may be at the time.

Consider this a ‘Resource Action.’ Everyone ready? Lets get started.

Mr. Statement Maker: You’re fired. To be blunt, you are an arrogant prick. The more you “know” the less we as a team learn. You are quick to jump to conclusions, and most of time you – despite your complete confidence – are wrong. You rarely listen. As a team we simply aren’t experienced enough to have you around. People will learn what we know through observation. When your position is needed again, I’ll hire Mr. Wisdom. Get out… now.

I’ll wait.

Ok? Moving on.

Mr. Researcher: Welcome aboard. You’ll be replacing Mr. Statement Maker. I’ll need to you ask questions, and try your best to identify the difference between what we truly know and what we’re assuming. Don’t worry, there’s no such thing as a stupid question. Being the brother of Mr. Humility, I’m sure you will tread carefully to service truth to our team.

Mr. Motivation: Welcome back. Everyone knows you’ve been through a lot of shit lately; loss of a friend and a failed business, back surgery, etc. We know you’ll be one of our strongest assets.

Mr. Self Posturing: You too, are fired. Your very essence is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We are no longer trying to be something we are not, and your manipulative nature fools us more than others. Mr. Researcher will help us determine who we want to become – but those changes will be organic. There are no quick fixes on this journey, and karma has caught up with you. Goodbye!

Mr. Rationalizer: You have done a fantastic job at making us comfortable with the status quo. You keep us safe, secure, and let us know that we are – at all times – in complete control. You’re fired.

Mr. Devil’s Advocate: You have saved us from a lot of terrible shit, including (but not limited to) career decisions, relationships, responsibility, and identifying cons when you see one. The thing is though,  you always play that position. Hell, your name is Mr. Devil’s Advocate. Knowing this, don’t let your feelings get hurt when we don’t listen to you.

Dr. Love: Your PhD in giving-a-shit-about-other-people has never failed us. Great marks all around. I’ll try to let you know you’re doing a great job more often. And for that, I’m sorry. That said, can I have you keep Mr. Devil’s Advocate in check and tell him when to shut up?

Professor Communication: You are doubtingly the most important person in my Cabinet. Without you, all of us cease to function. Be it at work, in relationships, or simply fluff talk to complete strangers – you are the transporter of information. I wanted the entire team to hear this because you are absolutely paramount to our success. If you break down for any reason, know that we are here as an immediate resource.

Gentlemen, thank you for listening. There are some new faces and new responsibilities. We’ve taken out the trash so now we have more energy for growth. There will be great triumphs. There will be terrible failures. There will be days we are in the zone, and days we simply don’t want to get with the program. All of this is natural. My dad once told me this is called ‘Life.’ But when we get to the end of the game, together we will know we’ve played our best.

So let’s get out there and learn, make mistakes, grow, work hard, love hard, and have fun along the way.

Meeting adjourned.